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Up Your Alley

Book recommendations, including a collection of short stories inspired by dictionaries, and a techno-thriller for teens. Or, how about novels with an upbeat message? Publishers call this genre up lit. Plus, a clergyman ponders an arresting phrase in...

Hoopla, a Dip in the Road

After our conversation about whoopsy-daisy and other terms for a sudden dip in the road, Jane in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, reports that she’s heard people in Wisconsin and Minnesota refer to such a dip as a hoopla. This is part of a complete...

Bug in Your Ear

Is there something inherent in English that makes it the linguistic equivalent of the Borg, dominating and consuming other languages in its path? No, not at all. The answer lies with politics and conquest rather than language itself. Plus: a new...

The Last Straw

In this episode, books for word lovers, from a collection of curious words to some fun with Farsi. • Some people yell “Geronimo!” when they jump out of an airplane, but why? • We call something that heats air a heater, so why do we call...

Skedaddle

The months of September, October, November, and December take their names from Latin words meaning “seven,” “eight,” “nine,” and “ten.” So why don’t their names correspond to where they fall in...

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